Wednesday, August 25, 2004

You're welcome, Paris

Paris celebrated its liberation today.

Something was missing in the first news story about the celebration: It was about French firemen, French policemen, French resistance fighters, and the French Army. And De Gaulle.

De Gaulle gave a speech that day, a month and a half after D-Day, in which he proclaimed that Paris liberated itself, with no mention of the Allies who invaded France on D-Day, opening the way for troops to arrive in Paris. By the time the resistance rose, the Germans were hearing guns on the horizon.

Allan Little of the BBC explains that "By the time the people took to the barricades, the approach of the Allies made liberation a near certainty." But France needed to restore its self-esteem. So here's the text of De Gaulle's speech:
"Paris - liberated by itself, liberated by its people, with the support of the armies of France, with the backing of the whole of France, of the true France, of eternal France."

All this is not to deny the courage of the French resistance fighters or the 1,600 people of Paris who died in those last 10 days of German occupation.

Only to say that sometimes nations are like people, and when a person's self-regard is built on a lie, it makes him brittle and proud and afraid that his shakily built dignity will collapse.

Anyway, not all the French had forgotten in 1944.

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